Passport picture saves the day

Everyone knows that when traveling abroad your passport is an important, essential item. It is the document recognized by foreign governments allowing you to cross borders and travel freely.

Deciding where and when you want to travel are the first two things you do when planning a trip abroad, but the third thing you do is begin the process of getting a passport. It is not a difficult procedure but it does take some time. In the United States, the application is available online, many post office locations can process your application and multiple businesses will take your passport picture.

Read all instructions carefully as you fill out the passport paperwork. The passport photograph has particular requirements and previous posts here will help you easily meet those requirements. You will generally receive two to four passport photos at the time of purchase. One photo will accompany your passport application but tuck one of those extra photos into a safe place in your luggage as it could be the photo that saves the day.

As careful and security conscious as we may try to be while traveling, losing a passport or having it stolen, can and does happen. If this should happen to you here is a packing strategy that will ease your mind and get your passport replaced quickly.

You have tucked that extra passport photo where it won’t be damaged. In another bag, one you don’t carry around with you every day but perhaps stays in in the hotel, tuck a color photocopy of your passport. Forget they are there and hopefully you won’t see them again until you are home and unpacking your clothes along with fond memories of your trip.

Should disaster strike and your passport is lost or stolen, don’t panic because you are prepared! Immediately contact the US Embassy or consulate and ask to speak to the American Citizens Services unit of the Consular Section. You will be required to visit and fill out another application but because you have a color copy of your passport and a picture, the process of identification and renewal will be swift.

Photo: Passport by Tony Webster licensed under Creative commons 2

Headgear in passport photos: what you can and can’t wear

A common question many individuals have when first taking a passport photograph is whether or not they are allowed to have something on their head. From hats to glasses, these questions come from people around the world. In general, the answer is no, but there are some exceptions. Before definitively leaving the headwear at home, it is important to go over these individual questions and answers.


Probably the most popular of all headwear questions, many who wear glasses want to know if it is alright to have these present in the photograph. If the eyeglasses are worn on a daily basis, it is fine to include in the photograph. However, these glasses cannot have a reflection, nor should the glasses feature transition lenses (which change darkness based on the amount of light in a room). In general, it is best to not wear the glasses in a photograph, but if someone rarely goes about their daily life without the vision corrective lenses, it is alright.


The only time anyone is able to wear sunglasses or anything with tinted glass is if there is a medical reason behind it. Having a medical certificate on hand is necessary to verify this and should be included with the passport application. Outside of this, anything with tinted glass should never be worn.


The only time a hat or anything on the top of the head can be worn is if it is for religious purposes. Even so, the face must be visible completely and it cannot obscure an individual’s hairline. It shouldn’t cast a shadow on the individual. If the item is not for religious reasonings, it is not allowed in the photograph and the passport application will be rejected.

Nothing else is allowed on the face. Beyond everyday glasses, medical prescription sunglasses for a special health situation and headwear for religious reasonings, everything else is banned. By following these rules, an individual will not face having their passport rejected based on clothing or other objects inappropriately on their head.

Most common photo mistakes that cause passports to be rejected

A passport is your ticket to the rest of the world. It is also a very specific document; and while your photograph is only one part of it, it is crucial for identification. Due to this, countries are very specific on their passport photo requirements. When taking your passport photo at home, you need to avoid these kinds of mistakes, as you’ll end up with your passport application being rejected.

Over exposure

Does the photograph look a bit too light? Maybe your skin looks washed out. Over exposure is a quick way to have your photograph rejected. This is why you should avoid wearing all white, as it can cause problems with any auto-features on your camera. Avoid over exposure to avoid rejection.


Shadows throw dark areas on your face. From dark patches under your eyes to odd coloration, you need to make sure your photograph is properly lit. One of the most common issues is having a light directly overhead. This causes long shadows to run down your face. Have the light come from in front of you and above to fill in any dark spots or shadows.

Wrong size

Your passport photograph needs to be two inches by two inches. This is a pretty easy issue to correct as it can be cut down to size.

Bad focus

Focus is another major issue. Everything needs to be crisp, as border patrol checkpoints need to be able to see all of the features of your face. Poor focus makes it hard to do this, so your photograph will be rejected.

Glasses and inappropriate headwear

The only time you should wear your glasses is if you wear glasses all the time. If you are more likely to wear contacts, take your glasses off. It is highly recommended to remove the glasses, just to make it easier for identification purposes – the same goes for headwear. Some religious headwear is allowed, but it may not cause a shadow or cover the face, so be careful.

How to look great in your passport photo

Just because you’re taking your own passport photograph doesn’t mean you can’t actually look good doing it. In fact, when you look at most other people’s passport photos, you’ve probably noticed most of their pictures really aren’t that great either. In fact, in many countries, you are not even allowed to smile in the photograph. While the United States isn’t as strict on a simple smile as other nations, there are other ways to look great in your passport photo, even if you choose not to smile.

Your shirt

The shirt you wear is very important; it might be the only bit of color you add to the picture. For starters, look for something with a v-neck or scoop neck (think basic T-shirt for the scoop). This helps add some contrast to the shape of your face. Also, go with a solid color shirt that goes well with your skin tone. Do you have pale skin? Opt for a teal or navy shirt. If you have more of a tanned, gold tone, select something like a deep brown or a vibrant blue. Above all else, avoid a white or black shirt if you want to look great as it will wash you out.

Mind the oil

Looking oily in your passport photograph is more common than you might think. The brighter lights really showcase the oil. So, use some oil absorbing power on your forehead and nose before snapping the pics. This prevents your skin from looking oily. Women are allowed a bit of mascara and blush, but don’t go over the top with this, otherwise you’ll be asked to retake the photograph.


If you wear prescription glasses on a daily basis you are permitted to wear the glasses in your picture. To avoid a glare (you’ll be asked to retake the picture if one is present) slightly tilt the lenses down to avoid this light reflection.

Avoid lighting directly over your face

If you can avoid the directly overhead light, do it. This results in odd shadows on your face, the appearance of dark circles under your eyes and more pronounced wrinkles.

What to wear in your passport photo

A passport photo only serves as a small part of your identification information stored within the booklet, but without an approved photograph, you will be forced to reapply for your passport. This is extremely time consuming and also expensive. Instead, you should ensure you have your passport photo done right the first time. Thankfully, you don’t need a wide range of equipment to snap that perfect photograph. You just need to know a few tips, including what you’re allowed to wear.

Avoid anything white

Your photograph is taken against a white backdrop, so anything white or off-white will blend into the photograph, making it difficult to distinguish your body from the rest of the scene. Instead, wear something that contrasts with the background. The only exception would be if you wear a religious garment on a regular basis – if this is the case, you are permitted to wear it for your passport photo.


In general, you need to be careful about any kind of headgear worn in passport photographs. Take out any sort of headphones, earphones, Bluetooth headsets or anything else electronic (outside of required hearing aids). Take off any non-prescription glasses. You are allowed to wear prescription glasses, but take extra care to ensure no glare is in the lens when taking the photograph. Also, remove all head coverings, unless they are for religious purposes. Should you have a head cloth or something of this nature, you need to make sure that it does not cover your face.

Go conservative

In general, it is best to dress conservatively. The top of your shoulders are visible in the photograph, so it is best to avoid wearing anything offensive. In some countries, exposed shoulders (especially on women) is seen as offensive, so it is best to wear a top covering the tops of your shoulders. Practice conservatism here and you’ll avoid offending local police and border patrols upon entering a country.

Dressing correctly for a passport photo isn’t difficult. Follow the tips above and save yourself time and money on that next application.

Photo: Passport by Tony Webster licensed under Creative commons 2

6 tips for great passport photos

Passport photos are only a small part of the passport process, yet even frequent travelers dread them. Their only purpose is to provide an accurate representation of you to avoid security issues; since it only takes a few seconds to take a passport photo, it seems like a technicality. However, you’ll instantly realize the importance if it’s unattractive. There’s nothing wrong with a little vanity – no one wants to be stuck with an unflattering photo for 10 years. For great passport photos, keep these seven tips in mind.

1. Color combo

U.S. regulations require a white background, so wear dark colors for contrast. Choose solid colors that are flattering to your skin tone and avoid patterns.

2. Face facts

Use a tissue to blot your skin to remove excess oil on your face; even a small amount will add a shine that the camera will exaggerate. If necessary, powder your face or use corrective makeup. Your face should have a neutral expression, so you’ll want to add color to highlight your facial features. Men should be clean-shaven, unless they have a beard for religious reasons.

3. Avoid glare and don’t wear sunglasses

Tilt prescription glasses slightly forward to avoid glare. Your eyes must be visible.

4. Tidy your hair

Brush and style your hair, combing through tangles and applying hair products such as gel or hair spray. This may sound silly, but the camera will capture any flyaway hairs.

5. Banish shadows

Lighting placement has a huge impact on photos. Lighting underneath will cast shadows across your face; harsh lighting will do the same. Use soft lighting from the side; it’s the most flattering. Moreover, don’t take your photo after a hard day’s work or if you’re sleepy – the camera will accentuate tired eyes with dark circles.

6. It’s better to have a choice

Take multiple images. It’s smart to have at least ten images. Compare each image, narrow your selection, and choose the most appealing photo.

Passport photos – More than just a good looking mug shot

If you plan on travelling outside the United States whether by land, air or sea, then you must have proper identification to allow you to leave and re-enter the country. Acceptable travel documents almost always require you to have a passport, which is internationally recognized as proof of identity and citizenship. All passport pictures, including baby passport photos, must follow very specific rules or the U.S. Department of State won’t issue you a passport.

Don’t alter or enhance your photo

Everyone wants their passport photo to look good, not like most mug shots on a driver’s license. However, resist the urge for a glamour shot that’s not going to provide a realistic version of yourself. You can use the red-eye reduction option when taking photos with a digital camera, but you can’t remove the red-eye from the photo itself. You can’t Photoshop your photo to remove blemishes or alter it in any way. Absolutely any type of enhancement or alteration to the photo will make it unacceptable. However, if you alter your personal appearance afterwards, that’s okay, as long as it’s nothing more drastic than changing your hairstyle or hair color.

Front face, eyes open, mouth neutral

With heightened security and better technology, it’s critical that new passport photos follow all requirements completely. Your photo must be less than six months old and include unique, measurable physical characteristics identifiable with biometric facial recognition software. That means that in a 2”x 2” photo, your head, from the chin to the crown, must fill 1” to 1 3/8” of that space. You must be fully-facing the camera with your eyes wide open and have a neutral facial expression. Smile, if you must, but keep it natural!

Choose an expert

If your submitted passport photo doesn’t meet each rule explicitly, then the processing of your passport application may be delayed. If you’re planning a trip in the very near future, you don’t want to miss your grand adventure because you couldn’t get your application approved due to photo issues. To avoid processing delays, it’s recommended you use a professional passport photo service who can streamline the process with expert training in how to get your photo approved the first time.

Photographer setup for successful passport photos

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to successfully set up a photo shoot to take acceptable passport photos of the whole family. There are a few simple steps you should follow to ensure the photos you take are appropriate for passport use. Camera placement and lighting are the biggest factors you should pay close attention to.

Positioning your camera

The U.S. Department of State, who issues passports for U.S. citizens, doesn’t allow you to take “selfies” or hand-held self-portraits, so you need someone to take your passport photo for you. This doesn’t mean you need a professional, just someone who can follow a simple photographer setup. This begins with where the camera is positioned. The camera should be set at eye level of the person being photographed and held at least four feet away. The photographer should frame the person in the viewfinder with just their upper body showing and empty space above the head.

Lighting and backgrounds

The background you use for passport pictures should be a solid white or off-white surface and should not contain any type of pattern, print or texture. The area should also be well lit with lighting strategically positioned to eliminate shadows. Don’t use overhead lighting, which can cast shadows. Instead, place one light on both sides of the person being photographed at about 45 degrees from their face. Place a third light close to and facing the background to uniformly illuminate and further remove shadows.

Exceptions for babies, but not children

Baby passport photos are the only ones that can differ from those you take for other members of the family. Depending on the age of the infant, it may not be able to hold its head up on its own and you’re not allowed to hold it up for them. In this case, you should lie the infant down on a plain, white or light colored blanket with lighting on both sides of its head. Babies under one years old aren’t held to the rule of having their eyes open and mouth closed, but child passport photos for toddlers over this age should be treated the same as adults.

How to prepare for your passport photos

Smile for the camera because it’s passport time. And while you’re excited for your international adventure, are you ready for the passport photo you need to take to get there? Posing for this photo will only take a few minutes, but it will stick with you for ten years. You don’t want to look any less than your best in a passport picture, and you don’t want to be unprepared. Here is what you need to know.

Before you get your passport, and the feeling of being a citizen of the world that comes with it, you need make sure you’ve read up on it. Review the regulations and rules about passport pictures. For the US State Department, you need to be standing in front of a white backdrop – look towards the camera, and try to not be too expressive. For your head’s measurement, it must be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from your chin to the top of your head.

When it comes to the photos, don’t get too complicated. If you wear prescription glasses daily, be sure to wear them in your passport photo. But be sure to tilt them down a little so there isn’t any glare, the State Department will not allow a photo with glare. Also make sure your eyes are fully visible.

Your hair should be brushed or styled, and you could even use a little gel or hairspray. For women it’s best not to look totally made-up, but some mascara and blush should help accentuate your face in the passport picture.

Be sure to wear a solid color shirt, remember the background will be white. A colored shirt will help you stand out, and a T-shirt would be a good start. If your skin is paler, try a shade of darker blue. If your skin is olive or darker, a vibrant red would work. Do not wear a white shirt since you’ll blend in with your background.

Know what works best going into the photos so you can have an easier time when you are taking them. And when it’s time to say “Cheese!”, position your shoulders back, and hold your chin one inch further out than usual for a more usable photograph. Most of all, have fun and enjoy yourself. A passport photo means you have a big journey ahead…